Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC
When: Saturday, October 8th, Noon
Records: UNC 4-1; Louisville 2-2
If you are looking for someone to thank for a less that average Louisville team being on the schedule, thank Tennessee. The Vols chickened out of the series with UNC leaving the Heels with a hole in the schedule which had to be filled on short notice. I am guessing Louisville was the best available which would have been a fine idea a few years ago, like when UNC last played the Cardinals. UL had a solid run under Bobby Petrino but since he departed, mediocrity has ruled the day under Steve Kragthorpe and now Charlie Strong. This version of the Cardinals is simply not a good team. There are major offensive line issues now coupled with the fact the offensive coordinator Mike Sanford left the team this week and was replaced with QB coach Shawn Watson. And we thought UNC's coaching change was disruptive.
Given Louisville's general issues on offense, this should be a game for the Tar Heel defense to gain some confidence. The front seven has been quiet of late, apparently contained to some degree by opposing offensive lines and a quick strike game plan such as the one used by ECU. That should not be the case versus the Cardinals who rank 113th in the nation in sacks allowed having given up 16 in four games. With UNC shuffling the secondary to get Jabari Price at cornerback and moving Tre Boston to safety this game presents an opportunity for the defense to find the keys to car so to speak. Obviously the UL offense has issues which will make any solid game put in by the defense valued less by comparison. However if UNC can have a game where the opposing team doesn't rack up 400-plus yards, that would be a nice step in the right direction.
UNC might face a bit of a challenge on the offensive side of the ball. Louisville has the 13th ranked rushing defense and is 61st in defending the pass. On paper it appears the UL rush defense might provide a test for Gio Bernard to get a fourth straight 100-yard game. However the three FBS opponents UL has played rank 63rd, 96th and 110th in rushing offense. Murray St. is ranked 82nd in FCS in rushing offense. Taking that into consideration and the 2.24 yards per attempt average it is difficult to get a read on whether the rushing defense is really good or the teams they played were really bad running the football. Regardless I expect UNC to stay with the balanced attack, maybe a few more looks to the air.
A win in this game puts UNC at 5-1 facing six ACC games to close the season. At 5-1 UNC will be in a great position to get to nine wins to close the regular season but it starts with taking care of business in this one and doing it without getting anyone seriously injured.
UNC 44 Louisville 13